Typewriters Still Smoking? An Interview with Underground Press Maven John McMillan
Date Written: 15/01/2018
Year Published: 2018
Resource Type: Article
Cx Number: CX22538
An Interview with Underground Press Maven John McMillan, who is an associate professor of history at Georgia State University in Atlanta, with degrees from Michigan State and Columbia, and the author of the best book about the underground press. Smoking Typewriters: The Sixties Underground Press and the Rise of Alternative Media in America (Oxford University Press)
Q: Has it struck you that the phrase "the underground press" was a misnomer since the newspapers weren't produced, published and distributed clandestinely?
A: Yes, the "underground press" was a bit of a misnomer. The overwhelming majority of "underground newspapers" sold openly, at bookstores, newsstands and on the street. Some publications better deserve the underground label. GI publications during the Vietnam War were often published and distributed clandestinely. Fuck You! (A Magazine of the Arts), was a crudely mimeographed, poetry-centered magazine that Ed Sanders published and distributed secretly, in NYC's East Village, from 1962-1965. You could get it from behind the counter at just a handful of stores.
Q: What do you think the phrase "underground press" initially meant to those who worked for it and those who relied on it for information?
A: The first underground papers--the Los Angeles Free Press, the Berkeley Barb, and the East Village Other--appealed to self-styled cultural outlaws, radical intellectuals, beatniks, eccentrics and artists. Underground papers could seem genuinely subversive, openly flouting society's conventions and, by the late 1960s, they championed the revolutionary overthrow of the U.S. government.